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Red light camera fines totaled $1 billion over 10 years

Tuesday, Oct 15, 2019

* CBS 2

Illinois drivers have forked over an astounding $1 billion in red light camera fines in the past 10 years, according to a new study, and now some lawmakers in Springfield are reviving a push to ban red light cameras. […]

A ban would leave Chicago and many suburbs with significant budget holes. For example, in west suburban Oakbrook Terrace, a peek at finances shows a 2000% increase in fines collected the year red light cameras were installed at the intersection of Route 83 and 22nd Street. […]

The two cameras in Oakbrook Terrace raked in $5.4 million in one fiscal year. That’s 54,000 drivers zapped at one intersection, an average of more than 147 a day. […]

Chicago is the biggest beneficiary from red light cameras in Illinois, taking in $56 million in fines last year alone.

The Illinois Policy Institute study is here

The annual haul from red-light camera tickets statewide has more than doubled over the decade, with local governments collecting more than $113.2 million in 2018 compared with $53.5 million in 2008.

Red-light camera revenue outside Chicago city limits drove almost all of that increase, with $56.6 million generated in 2018 compared with $5.4 million in 2008. […]

Although the number of cameras statewide has remained relatively flat since 2010, each camera on average is generating more revenue than ever. Revenue per camera in 2018 was more than $185,600, compared with less than $150,000 in 2014, when the number of red-light cameras in Illinois was at its highest.

* Here’s more on Oakbrook Terrace

Oakbrook Terrace obtained its cameras after state Sen. Martin Sandoval, D-Chicago, lobbied the Illinois Department of Transportation, or IDOT, to allow SafeSpeed to operate cameras in the city, even though the need for a camera had dropped significantly, according to a 2017 Chicago Tribune report.

IDOT had previously rejected red-light camera requests from Oakbrook Terrace Mayor Tony Ragucci, for whom SafeSpeed has long been a top political donor. But the agency repeatedly found the intersections to be sufficiently safe. IDOT reversed its denial and approved the camera installations at Sandoval’s request, two months after the senator received a political contribution from SafeSpeed.

A year after IDOT reversed its decision on the Oakbrook Terrace cameras, Sandoval received the largest political donation in SafeSpeed’s history, $10,000. SafeSpeed investor Omar Maani gave Sandoval $5,000 around the same time, according to the Tribune, on top of a $10,000 contribution from SafeSpeed parent company Triad Consulting, where Maani is a principal.

SafeSpeed is mentioned in the federal search warrant delivered to Sen. Sandoval’s Statehouse office. Maani was reportedly the subject of federal investigators’ questioning of Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski’s chief of staff.

* That Tribune report is here

In its 2015 application, Safespeed’s latest study cited half the violations as the 2013 one. Yet the suburb and Safespeed had something else that year: endorsements from lawmakers who received campaign cash from Safespeed.

One was from Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, who by 2015 had received $3,000 from firms tied to Safespeed’s owner.

He wrote a letter to John Fortmann — the top local IDOT official at the time — to “introduce” Fortmann to Safespeed and ask IDOT to approve the application. The need for such an introduction is unclear because, by then, Fortmann’s office for years had been working with Safespeed.

Records show another appeal came the very day the 2015 application was submitted to IDOT, from a more powerful senator: Martin Sandoval, D-Cicero.

Oakbrook Terrace is in Tom Cullerton’s district. Sen. Cullerton was indicted earlier this year on several federal counts. Something most haven’t noted yet is that his August 2019 indictment was issued by “The Special December 2017 Grand Jury.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Ron Burgundy - Tuesday, Oct 15, 19 @ 10:36 am:

    The special grand jury point is interesting. It was clearly organized just to look at these corruption issues and was already past the normal term of 18 months when the Cullerton indictment was issued. If I recall correctly they can be extended up to a total of 36 months, so we’d be looking at the end of 2020.

  2. - A guy - Tuesday, Oct 15, 19 @ 10:44 am:

    Get rid of all of them.

  3. - Roman - Tuesday, Oct 15, 19 @ 10:44 am:

    == issued by “The Special December 2017 Grand Jury.” ==

    That is interesting timing. I would assume that was the grand jury used for the Coli investigation and had nothing to do with red light cameras. But probably shouldn’t assume — you never know how the feds get on someone’s trail.

  4. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Oct 15, 19 @ 10:46 am:

    ===had nothing to do with red light cameras===

    I agree.

  5. - Perrid - Tuesday, Oct 15, 19 @ 10:46 am:

    Bad actors or corrupt contracts need to be looked at, but I legitimately don’t understand the hate for the red light cameras, generally. Proponents of the ban are effectively saying there should be no (automatic) punishment for running a red light, which is insane to me.

    We can talk about how high the fines should be, or about what actions local districts can take for people who don’t pay the fines, some protections make sense, but arguing against any kind of punishment seems nonsensical.

  6. - City Zen - Tuesday, Oct 15, 19 @ 10:46 am:

    ==Oakbrook Terrace is in Tom Cullerton’s district.==

    The intersection in question is Route 83 and 22nd Street. No crosswalks because there are no sidewalks.

  7. - Chicagonk - Tuesday, Oct 15, 19 @ 10:47 am:

    First Redflex and now Safespeed. Red light cameras should be banned in Illinois for the corruption alone.

  8. - Anyone Remember - Tuesday, Oct 15, 19 @ 10:48 am:

    Red light cameras do not go through the court system, a violation of Illinois Attorney General Opinion 92-013. The legislation got around this by declaring running a red light was not a moving violation. And in 2014 the Illinois Supreme Court dismissed a challenge to red lights. The required majority of 4 votes could not be reached as Lloyd Karmeier & Anne Burke recused themselves.

  9. - DIstant watcher - Tuesday, Oct 15, 19 @ 10:49 am:

    @Perrid: but the penalties are not automatic. They arrive weeks after the fact. Challenging them can mean taking off work to appear at an out of the way municipal office during the few hours appeals are heard. And the company that issues the tickets gets a cut of the action, incentivizing excesses.

    That’s not nonsensical, it’s practical.

  10. - Been There - Tuesday, Oct 15, 19 @ 10:59 am:

    While I agree the process needs to be worked on, especially the incentive by the companies to get a cut and pay their “consultants”. But I do think they have helped with people speeding through the light or not stopping on a turn (which is a lot of the tickets).
    We all yell BS when we first get the ticket in the mail but almost everyone I know, myself included, reel back and suck it up after you go online and see the video.

  11. - BigDoggie - Tuesday, Oct 15, 19 @ 10:59 am:

    Proponents of the cameras say it is about safety. Well, if that is true, then why not enact policies that mesh with that stance. Running a red light is dangerous and deserves a ticket. Coming to a near stop and rolling through a right turn on red at 1 or 2 MPH and getting a $100 ticket for it (which I guarantee you is the source of AT LEAST 80% of the violations) is not a public safety risk.

  12. - @misterjayem - Tuesday, Oct 15, 19 @ 11:03 am:

    And the company that issues the tickets gets a cut of the action, incentivizing excesses.

    And a taste of a thousand-million dollars is real money.

    – MrJM

  13. - SSL - Tuesday, Oct 15, 19 @ 11:35 am:

    Pay to play? Shocking. Sandoval and Cullerton are dirtier than my garage floor.

    This stuff is going to get a lot of air time.

  14. - City Guy - Tuesday, Oct 15, 19 @ 11:47 am:

    I agree in part with Perrid. I remember before the red light cameras were installed and it was becoming routine to see people blatantly running red (not yellow) lights. I don’t see that type of red light running any more.

    That being said there needs to be controls to make sure that the enforcement is fair and not just used as a revenue generator - which did not take place. Instead, they shortened the yellow light cycle and turned the cameras into an abusive program.

  15. - NoGifts - Tuesday, Oct 15, 19 @ 12:04 pm:

    They both increase safety AND revenue. win/win.

  16. - Powdered Whig - Tuesday, Oct 15, 19 @ 12:06 pm:

    I have lived in the City all of my life and never got a red light or speed camera ticket. I can also say that Chicago drivers are horrible - very impatient and self centered drivers. Not defending the red light camera program, but there is a reason why so many of these tickets get issued. Just saying.

    And before those that got tickets for turns on red go crazy on me, just remember that it is the law. If we don’t like it, the law should be changed.

  17. - A guy - Tuesday, Oct 15, 19 @ 12:11 pm:

    very, very few of these tickets are for running red lights. They mostly consist of not stopping at the line for the turn on red…the line where you can’t see if it’s safe to turn or not; that line.

  18. - Perrid - Tuesday, Oct 15, 19 @ 12:14 pm:

    NoGifts, most studies have shown they don’t increase safety, certainly not much. My guess, the people who aren’t thinking about the risk of running a red light (killing someone, for instance) also aren’t thinking about the legal or financial consequences of running a red light. That’s the uncharitable view, more charitably people that “accidentally” run a red light because they misjudge or aren’t paying attention aren’t going to be stopped by more consequences.

    I don’t think that means the cameras should be banned though. If one person out of 1000 thinks twice before approaching an intersection because we punish those who run red lights I think it’s worth it.

  19. - FP_J - Tuesday, Oct 15, 19 @ 12:22 pm:

    I’m glad to see the anti-camera line isn’t totally dominating here. If you don’t like getting tickets, the answer is pretty simple: don’t run red lights. My wife and I have gotten a few of them over the years and each time I look at the footage we clearly rolled through a right-turn-on-red.

    Some argue that these right-on-red cameras increase the risk of collisions from behind. But the real point is to decrease collisions from the side (the street you are turning onto). The delta velocity in a t-bone is usually much higher than a rear-end at a red light.

    Beyond all of that, pedestrians also stand to gain. I’m sure we’ve all witnessed people pulling up right into a crosswalk to turn right-on-red while only looking left for cars. Maybe pedestrians should start carrying air horns….

  20. - DuPage Saint - Tuesday, Oct 15, 19 @ 12:36 pm:

    They should put cameras on stop signs. That would really bring in money.

  21. - Rudiforte - Tuesday, Oct 15, 19 @ 12:50 pm:

    I have no problem with red light cameras. If one breaks the law, one should pay.

  22. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Oct 15, 19 @ 1:00 pm:

    Thinking this has anything to do with public safety or enforcing the law is ignoring quite a bit of what has transpired since the first raids involving Marty at the center.

    In reality, this plays out like a “protection” shakedown with the revenue of the cameras paying the freight to keep everyone happy?

  23. - SSL - Tuesday, Oct 15, 19 @ 1:43 pm:

    Agreed. This had nothing to do with safety. This had to do with making money, and all the right people getting a share. Has anyone looked at who is on the payroll at SafeSpeed?

  24. - Froganon - Tuesday, Oct 15, 19 @ 1:56 pm:

    We have family members who have barely avoided being broadsided by cars speeding through red lights. Keep the redlight cameras and stop fining right hand turns. Mandate the length of the yellow light. Make the legislative goal safety and strictly regulate any revenue raised. This shouldn’t be this hard.

  25. - R A T - Tuesday, Oct 15, 19 @ 2:38 pm:

    == there should be no punishment for running a red light, which is insane to me ==

    You may not want to come to Springfield as you would be quite dangerous. No one here ever stops at a red light so you would cause all kinds of accidents if you actually stopped.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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